Former Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert, now (just) Governor Gary Herbert, after the resignation of former Governor, current Chinese Ambassador, and all-around awesome dude Jon Huntsman, was supposed to attend a panel discussion on our campus last Friday in lieu of Senator Orrin Hatch, who expressed regret at having to bow out at the last minute. However, Herbert, was a no-show. We were stood up. As of this writing, an official reason for Herbert's ditching his state's newest university for heaven knows what has yet to be issued.
Should we, as students and constituents (unwilling though some of us may be), take offense to his slight? Should we storm the steps of the capitol and demand an apology and a long-winded speech about the benefits and/or perils of unregulated capitalism? Maybe we should take it as a compliment.
Governor Herbert has come under fire for having said that gay, lesbian, and transgendered people should not be considered a protected class. As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, "Asked specifically if he thought people should be afforded legal protection based on sexual orientation, Herbert responded, 'No.'" He also gave us the delightfully absurd and ill-conceived notion that doing so would set a negative precedent; "Where do you stop?" Herbert said. "That's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes."
So let's check the scoreboard. Herbert stood us up like an ugly prom date. Herbert thinks that discrimination based on sexual orientation should be legal. Herbert thinks that protecting people is a "slippery road." Herbert also seems blissfully unaware that there are laws that protect blue-eyed blondes, just as they protect brown-eyed redheads, green-eyed Blacks, hazel-eyed Latinos, etc., from workplace discrimination.
I'm a huge supporter of former governor Jon Huntsman. Not only does he seem to be a decent man, but he also relaxed Utah's draconian, puritanical liquor laws, supports civil unions for gay couples, and played piano with REO Speedwagon for two songs when they came to the Utah State Fair in 2006. I'm glad Huntsman was given such a great opportunity to serve his whole country rather than just our humble state in the international political forum, but his accepting of the ambassadorship did his home state a great disservice by allowing Herbert to get new business cards.
I don't personally know Governor Herbert, and I don't know if I can go so far as to say that his refusal to help protect an oft-persecuted minority keep jobs that they have and continue to earn and deserve makes him a bigot, per se; in the same way, I can't call someone that allows someone to get mugged when they could've stopped them to be a mugger themselves. However, his refusal to acknowledge that laws are needed simply because people don't do the right thing, as well as his fundamental misunderstanding of existing discrimination legislation, as outlined by his own statements, makes it clear that we as a state definitely traded down when Herbert took office.
To continue to prom date analogy, Huntsman was the handsome, kind quarterback that got straight A's and helped freshmen find their classes. But when he couldn't go to the prom anymore, we had to go with his easily confused younger brother who dropped the potentially game-winning pass at the state championship.
And he didn't even show.